Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler, two of the NBA's best rebounders, battle under the boards in the Magic's victory over the Hornets.
Photo by Ann Heisenfelt, the Associated Press
Due to other engagements, I was unable to watch the first three quarters of tonight's 95-88 victory. That was probably a bad thing for this site, but a good thing for my blood pressure. When I finally switched the game on, the TV showed the Magic held a 70-68 lead. A graphic showed the Magic lead by as many as 21 points in the first half, but had since shot 6-of-24 from the field and committed 9 turnovers.
Great, I thought. Another blown lead on the road, on the second night of a back-to-back, no less.
It didn't matter. Though the Hornets briefly took leads of 78-76 and 80-79, the Magic were able to assert themselves and win the game. Dwight Howard was his usual dominant self, posting 24 points, 15 rebounds, along with the dunk that gave the Magic the lead for good. But the real reason we won -- at least as far as the box score will tell me, anyway -- is we finally got some help from our bench. Keith Bogans was just 2-of-6 tonight, but Keyon Dooling made up for it by going for 15 points in his relief. Dooling posted an incredible +/- of 23, which is remarkable in and of itself, but especially when considering that he played a mere 24 minutes. For virtually every minute he was on the floor, the Magic outscored the Hornets by a point. That's huge.
But as great as it is to jump to 10-2, we still have to be mindful of our mistakes. On most nights, we won't win if we shoot 8-of-30 from three-point range. It's just not going to happen. Luckily, Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu hit clutch treys late, and bailed us out. Otherwise, we'd have a soul-crushing loss on our hands headed into San Antonio in what can arguably be called a matchup of the league's two best teams.
I'd like to end by congratulating Dwight Howard on being selected as the Eastern Conference's Player of the Week. He averaged 23.3 points and 13.3 rebounds as the Magic went 4-0, boosting their record to 9-2.